Speaking Evil of the [far too numerous] Lord’s Anointed

November 26, 2004 | 16 comments
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Yesterday the lovely one and I were in the middle of some pleasurable criticism of some people we like. I had struck a particularly rich vein, when she stopped me.

“You know that thing about speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed?” she said.

I’m used to these religious interruptions. I like them. “Go on,” I said.

“So we’re not supposed to criticize and nitpick our priesthood leaders?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, listen for a bit. Don’t you get anointed when you get blessed when you’re sick? Or how about when have the Holy Ghost, that’s anointing in way, isn’t it? Plus, everyone who goes through the temple gets anointed too. Lots of people are the Lord’s anointed.”

“Now that you mention it, that seems right.”

“So we can’t speak evil of anyone who’s been through the temple. Right?”

“Gosh!” This seemed constricting. Anyone could be the the Lord’s anointed. Why even government leaders . . .

“What does ‘speaking evil’ mean, anyway?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

Perhaps you do.

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16 Responses to Speaking Evil of the [far too numerous] Lord’s Anointed

  1. Adam Greenwood on November 28, 2004 at 2:07 pm

    Dallin H. Oaks has an instructive article entitled “Criticism” in the February 1987 Ensign. I’d like to link to it on Gospel Library but I’ve forgotten how.

  2. J. Stapley on November 28, 2004 at 2:22 pm

    < a href="http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1987.htm/ensign%20february%201987.htm/criticism.htm?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0">Criticism

  3. Adam Greenwood on November 28, 2004 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks, J. Stapley. Now teach me how to fish, please.

  4. J. Stapley on November 28, 2004 at 2:55 pm

    In the HTML section of the lds.org library, above every page are three commands; one of which is Bookmark. If you bookmark the page, you are given a universal link. It’s circuitous, but it works.

  5. Ben S. on November 28, 2004 at 3:29 pm

    Right click on the title of the article you want, and select “copy link location”, then paste it wherever you want. Or, go to http://www.tinylink.com to convert it to a smaller link, if you’re trying to email it.

  6. Steve Evans on November 28, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    This really familiar. sheesh.

  7. Steve Evans on November 28, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    The “sheesh” above doubly refers to the poaching and to the lack of a verb in my first sentence.

  8. Rusty on November 28, 2004 at 5:17 pm

    Steve also meant to link to here as well.

  9. Rusty on November 28, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    …and here.

  10. Aaron Brown on November 28, 2004 at 8:09 pm

    I have opined on this question in a prior thread. My views bear repeating:

    “As Ward Mission Leader of my ward, I am one of the “Lord’s anointed� … at least if you take literally the idea that callings received from the Bishop are inspired. Thus, I would appreciate it if you all would refrain from ever speaking evil of me.

    What does this mean, exactly? Let me spell it out for you: Adam, Steve E., Lyle, et al. must give complete deference to both the style and substance of my every comment. Kaimi, please see to it that my counsel is formally incorporated into the T&S Comment Policy forthwith!�

    My position was met with this rejoinder from John Fowles:

    “Aaron B., are you overlooking the stewardship aspect of this issue of evil-speaking? T&S and the commenters you singled out are not under your stewardship in your calling. The missionaries, however, and aspects of your ward life that deal with missionary work are under your stewardship. I would hope that members in your ward would refrain from speaking evil of you in the efforts that you are making to magnify your calling.�

    This doesn’t answer Adam’s question as to what “evil speaking� means, but it does touch on the question of who counts as the “Lord’s anointed,� which I think is just as relevant a question as Adam’s.

    Aaron B

  11. Adam Greenwood on November 28, 2004 at 10:22 pm

    John Fowles’ rejoinder is interesting, but it seems to conflate two different concepts–not criticizing people who have stewardship over us and not criticizing people who are trying to do what they were anointed to do. I think the second is a lot more relevant to considering how one is to treat people who were anointed in the temple.

  12. Adam Greenwood on November 29, 2004 at 12:05 am

    I should clarify that I am interested in both (1) whether ‘the Lord’s anointed’ extends to people other than priesthood leaders and (2) if so, what ‘speaking evil’ of them would mean, over and beyond our general obligations to all of mankind.

    Per the Faulconer-Huff proposal, I am most interested in answers to #2 from people who are willing to entertain a fairly robust idea of what ‘evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed’ is when it refers to priesthood leaders, something along the lines of what Brother Oaks talks about in his “Criticism” article. Debates over the deference owed priesthood leaders should take place in the thread that Rusty links too.

  13. john fowles on November 29, 2004 at 9:19 am

    I don’t see how someone who has received a priesthood blessing is necessarily the “Lord’s annointed” as that construction is used to imply someone set apart for leadership in the Church organization.

  14. MDS on November 29, 2004 at 11:06 am

    One lovely September Saturday afternoon in 1993, while all self-respecting citizens of Provo were either in the football stadium or glued to their TV sets to cheer on their boys in blue, I wandered across the street from the MTC to the Provo Temple, which was almost empty. After an endowment session, my district elected to grab lunch in the temple cafeteria. Because the temple ritual was so new to us, and as is, I suspect, the case with most like us, we fell into a discussion of the significance of certain words and phrases, and what they might mean. We were joined shortly by a kindly older brother in a lovely white polyester suit. I don’t remember anything about the conversation other than one specific point he made, which really impressed me. It was this: anyone who has gone through the temple has been annointed, and not just in a general sense. They have been annointed for very high leadership roles in God’s kingdom, to serve as kings and priests, queens and priestesses. To the extent that we were used to criticizing others in the church, we better get rid of that habit really fast, because if we did, our temple covenants were almost surely implicated.

    This anecdote, while certainly not authoritative, does show that the interpretation advanced above is not a novel one.

  15. Laura on November 29, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    I am firmly in the camp that all who attend the temple are among the Lord’s Anointed, but I wonder why the emphasis on deference to just those few folks in light of Christ’s teaching that we should speak kindly of everyone (including our enemies) not just an anointed minority.

    Laura

  16. Adam Greenwood on November 29, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    I wonder the same thing, Laura. Maybe we’re supposed to be kind to mankind for our own sakes, that our souls not be embittered with gossip and criticism. In contrast, perhaps criticizing those whom the Lord has anointed is an offense to him too because they are under his protection.

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